The Thought Leadership Mindset
Think. Write. Lead. - Issue #54
"Don't hire that SDR team, don't start putting a ton of cash or capital into any type of demand gen work until you have some evidence that you have a legitimate category that you've created or that you know is emerging. Trust the market engineering/category design work. Give it 6-12 months at least to take effect, and the odds of your company being successful are going to be dramatically improved."
That's a quote from Bruce Cleveland in Christopher Lochhead's podcast, Follow Your Different. Cleveland is the author of the best-seller “Traversing the Traction Gap" and an experienced category creator.
His advice goes against the modus operandi in Silicon Valley. But it's extra relevant today as we hear of the massive layoffs in the tech industry.
I think he’s right.
I’ve met bootstrapped solopreneurs who make $1M+ focusing on just 1 or 2 channels.
And I know VC-backed startups with full sales and marketing teams doing everything under the sun, struggling to make half that amount.
It’s not about the human or financial resources you have.
It's not about being everywhere (omnichannel).
It’s about your ability to position yourself as the only (or best) solution for your customer’s problem.
Look at the numbers:
About 90% of startups fail. (Failory)
47% of Series A startups spend $400k or more per month. (Fundz)
Only 2 in 5 startups are profitable, and other startups will either break even (1 in 3) or continue to lose money (1 in 3). ( Small Business Trends)
But being a solopreneur is not enough.
Positioning yourself as the go-to expert, as a thought leader, is the way. It's about having a thought leadership mindset.
After working for several startups, here are some of my observations about the differences between having a thought leadership mindset and a startup founder mindset:
Thought leadership mindset: Focuses on niche communities.
Startup founders: Focus on buyer personas.
Thought leadership mindset: Join and serve their communities, giving value and building relationships.
Startup founder mindset: Prospect to their buyer personas, cold calling/emailing.
Thought leadership mindset: People see their faces.
Startup founder mindset: People see their logos.
Actually, legendary CEOs like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson knew this and became the faces of their companies.
Thought leadership mindset: Scale by automating tasks and freeing their time for a better lifestyle.
Startup founder mindset: Scale by raising money to increase headcount and product features.
Thought leadership mindset: Build expertise and innovate through thought leadership.
Startup founder mindset: Hire a marketing team or an agency to build their brand.
Of course, there are many nuances and exceptions to the statements above.
Many solopreneurs fail and don’t know what to do. And 10% of startups succeed and some scale to make a dent in their industries.
But the model of raising venture capital and burning cash on the way to fast growth is one of the causes of massive layoffs and folding companies.
Are you patiently creating a category or are you after quick wins trying to capture existing demand?
Are you cultivating a thought leadership mindset or conforming to what is expected from you as a founder?
Are you willing to innovate and be different?
Write down your unique point of view, what makes you different (this may require some serious thinking and hard work).
Test your POV with your target audience and get feedback.
Refine your messaging and positioning — and be ready to deliver on your promises.
As a solo thought leader or entrepreneur, you can grow your company of one and turn it into a “startup” if you want.
Once you have laid the foundation of trust and credibility through your thought leadership, you can hire, scale and grow without subjecting yourself to the wishes of a board of investors asking for quick returns.
And if you’re part of a VC-backed startup, challenge the mindset of burning cash on expensive demand gen activities and focus instead on designing and validating your category first.
Why try to be better than the competition when you can be the only one?
Thanks for reading Think. Write. Lead.! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Discover your Thought Leadership Score
The Thought Leadership Scorecard benchmarks your ability to become the go-to expert in your industry and identifies opportunities for growth.
It takes just 5 minutes.
It’s completely free.
Receive customized results instantly.
I love it! You always make me think. I am missing the writing part though.